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Benevolence turned subjugation

| Sunday, July 23, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
In this 2013 file photo, a woman holds a portrait of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin during a communist rally marking the Defenders of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, Russia.  (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
In this 2013 file photo, a woman holds a portrait of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin during a communist rally marking the Defenders of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

In his July 2000 essay in The Atlantic, “The Last Great Critic,” Nathan Glick, former editor of the U.S. Information Agency journal Dialogue, focused on a literary critic born on the Fourth of July 1905 in Queens, N.Y., to immigrant parents: “Most Americans who respond seriously to books and ideas seem to agree that Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) became in the postwar years and remains today our most influential, most admired, and at the same time most controversial and perplexing literary critic.”

Trilling, an anti-communist liberal, said he struggled “against all the blindness and malign obfuscations of the Stalinoid mind of our times,” against tolerance of totalitarianism, against the dogmatism, pro-Stalin empathies and naiveté of fellow-traveling leftists in America and Europe. In The Kenyon Review in 1948, he warned how benevolence can become subjugation. “Some paradox of our natures leads us, when once we have made our fellow men the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.”

The utopian goal of radically changing a system commanded a change in the people, said French political agitator Francois-Noel Babeuf (1760-97), a leader in the Conspiracy of the Equals for abolition of private property and absolute equality of results: “Society must ... operate in such a way that it eradicates once and for all the desire of man to become richer, or wiser, or more powerful than others.” That's a formula for a less rich, wise and powerful society that eradicates people who challenge the smashing of their hopes of becoming richer or wiser by the dictates and swords of a ruling hierarchy wielding hugely unequal amounts of wealth and power.

The basic flaw of Babeuf and his followers was viewing the economy as a fixed pie: A person only succeeds in getting a bigger piece by arranging for another to get a smaller piece. Success, in short, is theft.

“If there is a single man on earth who is richer and more powerful than his fellows,” stated Marechal's “Manifesto of the Equals,” then “the equilibrium is broken” and “crime and misfortune are on earth.” Thus it is necessary to “remove from every individual the hope of ever becoming richer, or more powerful, or more distinguished by his intelligence.” The forecasted result of this centrally designed and enforced heaven on Earth would be “the disappearance of boundary-marks, hedges, walls, vices, door-locks, disputes, trials, thefts, murders, all crimes ... courts, prisons, gallows, penalties … envy, jealousy, insatiability, pride, deception, duplicity ... .” In short, no hedges, no theft, no murder — by way of government's massive onslaught by way of theft and murder.

Communist regimes' death toll approaching 100 million over seven decades, as documented in “The Black Book of Communism,” provides a sense of the scale and gravity of the crimes committed to develop and enforce collectivist utopias: USSR, 20 million deaths; China, 65 million; North Korea, 2 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Latin America, 150,000; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million.

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (

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